Dept of English, UC Santa Barbara
This is a clip of Eddie Izzard talking about how computers will end the world. Specifically, he talks about two versions of people: the people who are techno-savvy and the people who are techno-phobic. He’s much more entertaining than the Frontline clips we’ve seen!
While reading “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction”, one topic in particular sparked my attention. I was surprised to read about the students’ opportunities to take media classes while still in high school, and I was appalled to learn of the freedom students had to take such classes while paying little attention to the “traditional classes”, the foundation of their education.
Elective courses, such as the video editing class and audio class, may be of some value to children, but should be reconsidered if they distract students from traditional academic classes. While these classes may appeal to a younger audience, the education they provide is better suited for a trade school or a college class. If the school feels that the students’ attention may only be held by integrating technology into the learning environment, they have many opportunities to do so in a more scholarly setting, such as teaching a class how to write a research paper.
I understand where you’re coming from – a lot of times elective courses that involve technology can be distracting but I see it differently. I went to a tech high school, where we were given laptops, and expected to do all of our work on the computer. While it definitely created same for massive distraction – the ability to reach Facebook, Myspace, Livejournal and email while in class – it also gave us a chance to develop the skills to learn how to avoid those distractions. We were shown how to research online without only using Wikipedia, and how to create Powerpoints quickly and effectively. All of our classes were taught using technology and given how much technology has seeped into our lives its been really helpful having had these tools to work around the distraction.
I really liked Cathy Davidson’s response to “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction.” The main point of her article is summarized in the quote, “This is not really a discussion about the biology of attention; it is about the sociology of change.” People fear change. Just as there was widespread rejection of rock & roll in the 50s, there is now widespread rejection of new media technologies. The rejection of these technologies is not a fear of the technology itself, it is a fear that people are learning differently than they used to – who is to say it is for better or worse? Davidson’s resolution was, “It is a challenge to rethink education from the ground up, but we need to. And now, in this transitional and precarious moment, is the optimum time to begin. For the sake of our children, it is time to stop complaining and looking backwards; we have to start thinking about the best ways we can help our children succeed in a future they have inherited and will help to shape.” I like this resolution for two reasons. One, Davidson is taking the blame away from the “distracted” generation. It seems as though most of the studies about distracted reading present the statistics with a tone of blame. We have inherited different learning strategies as a result of our culture. We are not to blame for the current culture. It is up to people now to accommodate to this change. This is the other reason I like the resolution; Davidson proposes a much needed reformation to our education system. We need to recognize that children are not learning the same way that they used to. Brilliant, yet unmotivated people like Vishal (from “Growing Up Digital”) are slipping under the cracks because they can no longer relate to traditional styles of learning. This is of a particular interest to me, because I want to be a teacher. Though it will be challenging to come up with curriculum to accommodate the new styles of learning, it is completely worth it – “The best we can do as educators is find ways to improve our institutions of learning to help our kids be prepared for their future – not for our past.”
While reading “Growing Up Digital” I tended to lean toward the idea expressed in Davidson’s response that one of the main issues at hand is “the mismatch between the way [students] are being taught and what they need to learn.” I thought the teacher, Mr. Reilly, at the high school profiled in the NY Times article had good intentions by wanting to use technology to develop students’ skills by teaching them how to use premier programs beneficial to know for future careers. However, I also felt he was perhaps too gung-ho about technology; it came across as yielding or kowtowing to students’ inability to focus or perform well in a traditional learning sphere. Very It would be interesting if there were figures charting the students’ grades/performance in a traditional learning environment versus a more technological environment. The article mentioned the effort to use iPads to teach Mandarin didn’t blow over so well, so it makes you wonder…
As Davidson writes in her article, educators need to acknowledge the fact that strictly traditional ways of teaching are not quite cutting it with today’s youth and should seek to establish and integrate newer methods of instruction–whatever those may be! Perhaps there just needs to be a balance between the two?
Also, there’s a pretty relevant sketch in this new IFC tv show, “Portlandia,” re: tech overload/distraction:
As I was reading NYT’s “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” I recalled a lot of questions and arguments brought up in class such as the definition of multitasking and the tendency to make it synonymous to the word “distracted.” Although this article used the words ‘multitasking’ and ‘distracted’ as synonyms and “blurred the distinctions between ‘distraction’ and ‘attention,” (Davidson) the NYT article was refreshing because it called for a balance in the use of technology and academics and didn’t label technology (internet, video games) as completely detrimental to young people’s creativity.
While Sierra does bring up that the point that too much freedom in class can make for a weak foundation in education by distracting students from paying close attention to “traditional classes,” I agree with Morgan that Cathy Davidson offers a rational and favorable resolution (finding new ways to improve our institutions while taking into account the changes and progress in technology, rather than spending time in trying to decide whether institutions should encourage the use of technology in classes) without labeling our generation as ‘stupid’ or ‘lazy.’
In reading Emma Donoghue’s Room in the context of Cathy Davidson’s online response it is easier to understand the character Jack and how he develops throughout the story in regards to his socialization, attention, and education. In the story we see how Jack transforms from the child in Room to the child in Outside. Although the likelihood of him making a successful adjustment seems slim after living in an eleven-by-eleven foot shed for five years to suddenly being introduced to an overwhelming abundance of activity and information in a reality he did not even know existed, he proves that it is possible despite the unfavorable odds. Cathy Davidson explains this phenomenon when she states:
The brain is always changed by what it does. That’s how we learn, from infancy on, and that’s how a baby born in
New York has different cultural patterns of behavior, language, gesture, interaction, socialization, and attention than a
baby born the same day in Beijing. That’s as true for the historical moment into which we are born as it is for the
geographical location. Our attention is shaped by all we do, and reshaped by all we do. That is what learning is.
Although Jack was born in extreme circumstances and in an unusual/confined location compared to other children he still exhibited the property of the mutable brain, a quality that all humans possess. Jack was able to adapt to his new environment because as his location and experiences were changed his mind was biologically constructed to make the transition as well. It is wrong to assume that once the brain is shaped by certain things it is impossible to undo what has been absorbed; the mind is constantly being reshaped by our experiences, environment, education, and the millions of other things that we come into contact with daily, and so far we have managed our ongoing process of transition very well.
Going back to all of the critiques on technological advancements and obsession, I think that it is important to recognize that throughout the existence of mankind we have been evolving, it is in our nature to constantly move forward and progress in everything that we are and everything that we do and it is perplexing as to why people are making such a commotion to stop our evolution now when we have been apart of this cycle of development for 100,000 years. If we wanted to put a damper on our advancement, why not stop before Thomas Edison could improve the lightbulb? Or better yet why even go past sitting around a fire we just figured out how to make while fighting over who gets the best piece of roasted Woolly Mammoth? We are in a constant state of learning, our attention is always shifting, but that it how it has always been; this is not some new phenomenon that has developed with the invention of the internet and its many accessories, this is another phase in our human evolution, why not accept it and see where it takes us?
I think this whole issue is more of a debate between traditional and new. Davidson makes a lot of sense by pointing out that each generation grows up in a different environment than the previous one, and that the arguments posed by the older generations about the newer are always in comparison to their own, which is unfair.
As for the NYT article, it uses their performance in classes as a measure of their focus. However, one of the students says he has an interest in film editing, and works for hours on end perfecting every bit. That clearly shows a lot of focus, but because its not within the traditional academic subjects, its viewed as detrimental. In time those skills easily land him a job in a field he enjoys, whereas some required classes (History, English, Biology, etc.) may not be as useful to him. Its also worth nothing that these kids are not even doing that badly in school. One kid gets three B’s, another actually has straight A’s, but a lower than hoped for SAT score (which means they may not actually be low scores). These are just the worries of parents who are worried their kids are becoming less than exceptional.
It is worth reiterating, as Davidson does, that debates about distraction and the inability to concentrate on/appreciate the importance of more “traditional” interests or subjects (i.e. literature) is not just confined to our digital age. In fact, in 1930, British literary critic F.R. Leavis wrote a book called _Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture_ about the downfall of the arts and traditional “culture” in his age of mass industrialization. In one section, Leavis responds to Wordsworth’s famous injunction that “a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition” is the best way to cultivate “an accurate taste in poetry” in writing the following (bear with the lengthy quotation, if you can focus your attention for so long):
“When Wordsworth wrote that, severe thought and long-continued intercourse with the best models were more widely possible than now. What distractions have come to beset the life of the mind since then! There seems every reason to believe that the average cultivated person of a century ago was a very much more competent reader than his modern representative. Not only does the modern dissipate himself upon so much more reading of all kinds: the task of acquiring discrimination is much more difficult. A reader who grew up with Wordsworth moved among a limited set of signals (so to speak): the variety was not overwhelming. So he was able to acquire discrimination as he went along. But the modern is exposed to a concourse of signals so bewildering in their variety and number that, unless he is especially gifted or especially favoured, he can hardly begin to discriminate.”
Here we can see that the “modern man” of Leavis’s time is compared less favorably to the reader of Wordsworth’s time. What is to blame for the modern man’s distraction and decline? The machine: “The machine, in the first place, has brought about change in habit and the circumstances of life at a rate for which we have no parallel.” Indeed, Leavis maintains, the change brought about by machines has been “so catastrophic that the generations find it hard to adjust themselves to each other.” Here, Leavis is referring not only to the machines of factories and their products like the automobile, but also to the ideals of “mass-production and standardisation in the form represented by the Press.” He is talking about the mass media, including newspapers, advertising, and radio, to name a few of his examples. Furthermore, his argument is in some ways an extension of an argument made by Matthew Arnold, another literary critic, in his _Culture and Anarchy_, published in 1869. The question, then, might not be, “What it is about digital technologies that drive us to distraction and how can we stop it?” but rather, “What is it about our conception of modernity or the contemporary moment that drives us to think about distraction?”
This is a response to the “Growing up digital” NYT article:
I read articles like this and I just cant seem to break myself away from the argument that this is a matter of discipline. I see lines like this, ““If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says.” and I immediately see a parallel with past articles written about television and the demise of the student. If it isn’t television its kids listening to that goddamn rock music. Something will always be a distraction. There was even a time when people were using this argument to denounce literature that was deemed uncultured or racy.
There are simply too many concessions being made in this school. A focus on technology is great, but changing the first period time from 8 to 9? All because “Them kids are on them ‘puters too late”? What is that going to accomplish? The kids will simply stay up an hour later because they can sleep in an extra hour. The solution here is discipline.
Little Jimmy spending too much time late on the computer? Go into his room and tell him to go to sleep because he has school. If he stays on the computer take away the power cable. If he is getting bad grades because he isn’t doing homework, help him with his homework. Set up some supervised time where your kid has to focus.
Both the New York Times article and the response to that article brought up valid points on how people, especially young people, are adapting of being “addicted” to technology. However, the response article calls attention to the fact that, like we discussed in class already, technology is not a demonic set of devices intent to make people addicted to them, which ultimately “dumbs” down our brains and sacrifices our attention spans. Dun Dun Dun!!
Unfortunately for the NY Times article, I strongly disagree with the argument that youth are slowly becoming more “addicted” to technology, and that the use of computers, video games, etc., have forced our brains to develop more funkily than the brains of people, specifically the adults who come up with these studies, which spells out doom for the future of society. Like the response article points out, every new crop (because I do not like using the word “Generation” simply because grouping that many people together is too big to effectively group in my opinion) of a youth group uses newer technologies that have become available to them and therefore their brains learn and develop differently than their parents and grandparents did. With this in mind, teachers and parents are holding their children and their students to a learning standard that limits the incorporation of newer technologies simply due to the fact that they are foreign to the adults–who like all people are afraid for drastic change in their environment. For example, the response article points out that teachers have always been concerned with keeping their students engaged and doing their work, which means that the birth of the internet and personal computers have a smaller play in distraction than many people know.
At the same time, though, when I took the two NY Times tests for distraction and multitasking, I was completely prepared to do poorly on the multitasking test not because I know that I am a lousy multitasker, but because my dyslexia and rapidly changing letters and numbers rarely work well together for me. That being said, we must also take into consideration, in my opinion, that while technology is becoming more and more sophisticated, so too have the learning disabilities become sophisticated–harder to detect in other words because they do not literally “show” as easily as, say, down syndrome. Referring back to both articles, for instance, the authors argue whether or not children are increasingly developing ADD or if their attention spans have just become accustomed to immediate gratification and therefore demonstrate symptoms of ADD. Furthermore, these test administrators and programers fail to distinguish what level of multitasking they choose to test, which limits what kinds of acts people could be simultaneously doing. For example, I am sure many of us are fully capable of singing in the shower, which according to the idea of multitasking simply being performing more than one task at once, many people of any sort of attention span, technology or not, can easily accomplish. In my own experience, especially regarding these attention tests, I strongly argue that the adults who perform studies and are quick to judge what their children are and are not capable of should treat each person as a case-by-case basis, and refrain from clumping people into wholes of “Us” and “Them” with regard to separating who is superior because of lack of or possession of technology.
Lit 146: Response to the Times Article
For the most part I agree with the response to the Times piece that talking about cultural fears about the way technology changes attention is mostly excessive. It seems to describe the effects from a technological determinist perspective casting the way attention works in terms of addictions. The kid in the article seems more an anecdote of obsession that any kind of illustrative example. And more rooted in the natural fear of changing than any kind of revolutionary way of thinking encouraged by technology.
Although, I do agree with the Times’ belief that technology will bring unforeseen change. In ways that probably can’t be understood until they begin to happen. In this sense, I agree with the Principle in the Times article who says that “The technology amplifies whoever you are.” This seems relevant is becoming technology lets you do what you would have already have done. Not just in the way in provides the mind the distractions is always in pursuit of, as the response-article mentions, but by encouraging and advancing one’s interest in a single subject.
Like in the Times Article the featured student who wants to be a film director seems so intensely interested in the technical, the multi-media aspects of filmmaking, that his grades suffers in courses that may actually help him later on like english. While it doesn’t directly apply to filmmaking the content-analysis English teachings is helpful in understanding the structure of films. Or at least providing another way of understanding film.
What I found most interesting about the research used by Times article was the incidental effects video games had on learning:
“They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.”
This seems like not just an impediment to learning but to the positive benefits associated with it. If even the learner can not feel and understand their own improvements the intrinsic benefits of learning, then there will be an additional reason to seek interests elsewhere. But even if they want to learn they’ll hidden resistance. I think this is why the writer of the review, states that modern schools are so outdated. Because the effects of these different types of media haven’t been fully understood by schools or integrated in a way that gains a more coherent, analytical perspective, instead of a way that favors memorization and recall. So it makes sense that the review should answer the Times’s paranoid fears/prophesy by calling for more understanding, and research in how to use these technologies together.
“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”
When reading the NY Times article “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” this description hit a chord with me. Last night I turned on my laptop fully intent on posting a response on this blog, however, this did not occur. I realised that as soon as my homepage, Facebook, had loaded I was immediately distracted by the events displayed on my news feed. It wasn’t until I had then replied to lengthy emails and caught up with some television programmes that I realised it would be the perfect time to Skype my friends at home before they went to their morning lectures. All notions of responding to the articles gone.
I am however, opposed to Vishal’s claim that without the Internet I would focus more on school and do better academically, after all I have still responded to the article. He talks about discovering there was a choice and that homework wasn’t the only option, yet he appears to always complete his film class homework. I understand that he does better in his film class because he can use technology but it is the passion for the subject that also reflects his higher grades. In England, we can choose to leave school at the age of sixteen, if we decide to stay on in education the subjects we take reflect our interests. I could have taken film studies and media studies but I had no desire to, similarly I had no desire to take maths or chemistry for any period of time longer than required. Furthermore, I knew that I wanted to do an English degree at university and this did not require taking any particular subjects past the age of sixteen apart from English. I only needed to have good grades in three other subjects but these could have been anything that was offered to me, they did not have to be traditional subjects. It is this idea of the ‘traditional’ that lies beneath concerns that our generation is being ‘dumbed down.’ I do not feel we are being ‘dumbed down’ through our increasing use of technology, times are changing and change is not a bad thing.
After reading about Vishal’s school environment I found myself rather jealous. I wish that at a younger age I had been given the opportunity to take classes that would have taught me power point, website design, etc. Today, I often find my lack of knowledge of computers frustrating because printers are my worst nemesis and if someone asked me to email them a document I currently could not because my Microsoft Word has a virus. I’ve long been convinced that technology is out to get me, whether it be dropping my phone in a puddle or accidentally taking my ipod on the Log Ride at Knotts I am constantly antagonized by its existence. However, in our current world technology is absolutely necessary and I cannot avoid it. For instance, if I were to turn off my phone and read a book for three hours, I guarantee that when I turned it back on I would have dozens of messages from my overprotective mother wondering why she cannot reach me. To her, technology has become a way that she can be in my life constantly even though I now live hundreds of miles away. To her it is a matter of safety, and if my phone is off it means something horrendous has happened to me. Because of this, I cannot disappear from the technological world for even a day. I cannot avoid emails or facebook or texts because people expect immediate responses. Additionally, if I don’t check yahoo news for a day I feel completely disconnected from the world. News online updates by the minute, no longer do I have the leisure of reading the paper once a day, or even watching the nightly news. This constant bombardment into my life is exhausting, and I do notice my inability to focus for long periods of time. However, if I don’t pay attention I feel completely out of the loop. Although I share some of Richtel’s fears I don’t see any way around technology being apart of our lives. There is no way to stop this technological craze, I think the only answer is to embrace it now so we don’t spend forever trying to catch up with it.
Reading both “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” as well as Cathy Davidson’s response, I felt that Davidson identified many of the same criticisms I did in my read through of the article. I felt that the article proved a seemingly obvious truth; that 18-30 year olds would rather do something they find enjoyable and engaging instead of homework. The fact that that enjoyable activity was easily accessible due to technology seems to be the reason that technology is being blamed for this perceived lack of attention. I felt that Vishal used technology as a cop out for his lack of responsibility (not attention) when he claimed, “If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically…” I feel as though those who argue that technology is shortening our generations attention spans allows for this type of pardon from personal responsibility. As Davidson points out, Vishal has no issue focusing on the tasks he finds interesting, therefore, the issue is not a neurological attention deficit but a social apprehension to a change.
This is made very clear by the “us” and “them” distinction which is evoked in the NY Times. Mr. Daniels statement “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” depicts this point perfectly. He codes our generations affinity for “screens” as if it was biologically determined characteristic, however, I believe that we (and by that I mean all humans” simply have a biological desire to be engaged. Our generation simply fulfills this desire using screens. An intriguing comment, made by Mr. Diesel, which follows soon after the previously quoted one is that “he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.” I feel as though this comment highlights the reason the “old vs new generation debate” on technology and its social effect exists. Vishal is being judged as being not interested in being part of the system, however, the system may be the better subject of judgment.
Vishal has used this easy access to information to find a skill which he enjoys, honed it, and become proficient. Why should he be forced to focus on things that are not relevant to this skill? While Latin or advanced placement math may increase ones mental tool chest, his lack of interest and resulting lack of drive in those classes may preclude him from pursuing this craft at a higher level. Perhaps technology, and the easy access to information it provides, has exposed the issues of the current systems (in this case the educational system). Perhaps the fact that our educational system cannot adapt to the needs of individuals has lead to the popularity of the internet as a “distraction.”
In response to Scott…
I share your sentiments exactly! The desire to procrastinate and ability to become distracted seems like a given part of human nature, and like you, I wouldn’t say digital entertainment is a revolutionary form of distraction. I remember finding ways to avoid studying or doing homework before my parents first purchased dial-up internet!
Even after the introduction of electronic entertainment into daily life, I feel that parental supervision should still play a crucial aspect of childhood development. The parent(s) should be regulating the time their child spends in the digital world and the types of social interactions their children are having in it. (For example, a child may socially interact through instant messages, and another child may intellectually stimulate themselves by researching the workings of a clock.) Because children’s’ minds are so malleable, it is the parents duty to enforce safe online habits and guide their offspring to living a healthy lifestyle.
I do not believe that I have much that I can do to add to the comments already made, as my own opinion is quite in line with the majority here. The news article was cute, but unfounded in its claims. The response by Cathy Davidson was equally as well written, but held more weight in its claims and received a much more favorable reaction from me.
I have long been a fan of changing methodology to match one’s audience. A person just should not try to preach to a crowd of atheists and expect them to really engage with the topic, so why should a teacher resort to methods increasingly perceived as archaic and obsolete by their own students and expect them to respond positively? I find such stubborn instructors to be absurd, and cannot help but regard them as relatively inferior at their trade. We have all had such teachers and professors, and I am sure that every one of us can remember being reluctant (if not outright unwilling) to engage on the instructors’ level. A good system of education instills the desire to learn in students, and opens avenues through which they may do so.
Many of us have heard in our years of schooling that memorization is an outdated, ineffective mode of education. I believe it necessary not only to acknowledge how increasingly true that is becoming, but to accept that it may not be the only method that is losing pertinence. I think Davidson’s response aptly covers that ground, however.
What I found most interesting were the studies that were conducted to prove these points. I found the actual testing process to be altogether shaky and problematic. If we are to assume that the tests we took were similar to the purportedly scientific tests that Stanford undertook, I am sorely disappointed with their research practices. The point of articles like this, as I see it, is to show that younger generations are losing the ability to learn, gather knowledge, and develop skills, and that some multi-tasking characteristic of contemporary technology is to blame. The test I took only seemed to show that I am as lousy as everyone else at remembering to associate categories such as ‘vowel,’ ‘consonant,’ ‘even,’ or ‘odd’ with everyday characters. I’d like to point out that when we see the number “8,” for example, if the first thought in our heads is “even” then we have failed ourselves in understanding the actual significance of the number. I know that eight divided by two is four without hesitation—and that is useful. Knowing that eight is an even number has little relevancy when considered under the light of how we actually use these numerical concepts. The other test, the “focus test,” was also unfair; I got a perfect score, and was busy tapping my finger waiting for the next screen to load because it was just too slow. I know for a fact that I, personally, have issues focusing and getting my work done. I rarely spend the time to read for classes that don’t catch my interest and invade my thoughts, and essays are some of the most painful endeavors I put myself through. Yet, I got a perfect score. All this test really showed me was that all those hours playing games where I needed to pay attention to red objects and not really concern myself with the blue ones paid off for some novelty. The test claims that I could hold multiple objects in my head at once, and repeat them back out. I can’t remember a cute girl’s ten digits long enough to write them on my arm, so I don’t think that’s it. I pretty much just ignored the hell out of anything not red; and that was easy. In short conclusion, those tests showed nothing significantly repeatable about our habits and mental capabilities.
I agree with Scott and others that these problems of “distraction” seem to stem directly from a lack of discipline. Technology simply provides the newest avenues to preoccupation and procrastination. I find it interesting to consider the students in high school now in comparison to my own experiences that were only five or six years ago, because I would have never dreamed that becoming proficient in film editing or some other digital media would cancel out mediocre grades and guarantee my acceptance to a college the likes of USC. After reading this NYT article I can’t help but wonder whether the true technological problem lies within the parenting generation’s understanding of new media. Vishal’s parents do not want to deprive him of a new computer because this would only impede his progress as the next great filmmaker, and ultimately cause “depression.” The obvious issue to me is the fact that there first is no discipline established between parent and child and thusly, no discipline forms between the child and his schoolwork. Not to claim that I was the model student in high school nor did I consider my parents to be the harshest of disciplinarians, but it was instilled in me from an early age to work hard and understand the importance of seeking knowledge and education. It is absolutely absurd to me that Vishal’s parents would assume that he could be successful in such a heavily over saturated industry without first establishing a well rounded understanding of intellectual spheres. Like his teacher said, if Vishal is to be a great filmmaker, he’ll have to read Vonnegut. And like others have said, if it wasn’t the computer it would be something else. Procrastination and immediate gratification seem to have a synergistic reaction when coupled together, and the immediacy of the digital age has simply heightened to ease with which one can ignore real responsibilities. And it is healthy to do so sometimes, as escapism is one of the main motivations for all the arts, but at a certain point it becomes a personal choice of whether to stay tuned out or train your energies towards tangible production.
From reading “Growing Up Digital”, I felt that today’s children’s attention will focus on what gives them instant gratification, which typically has resorted to video games, cell phones, laptops, and other such devices because I, and probably they as well, received the privilege of using such items as reward for good behavior/success in school. After reading Davidson’s response, which outlines that many children diagnosed with ADD do not focus well in school, but excess at focusing on video games, goes to show that the brain seems to be hardwired to paid better attention to the more immediate source of gratification. Especially with high tech gadgets, 3D imaging, and other “wow factors” offered with today’s technology, listening to a lesson on grammar or multiplication becomes extremely boring, and children’s thoughts seem to immediately revert back to their source of gratification; technology.
Also, from the response by Davidson, she highlights how it took 150 years to built the educational system of the Industrial Age, and suggests that our 15 year transition into the Information Age is just in stages of infancy. As brains continue to develop new attachments to technology’s newest upgrades, educational processes need to upgrade, as it seems the changes in our brains are permanent, and to continually attempt to force kids to learn in the same way that previous generations have may be counter productive.
The kid in “Growing Up Digital,” is a rather extreme example of an exaggerated problem. While he’s certainly a perfect case study for what these journalists describe, I feel that they consider variables that can’t be measured. I knew a kid in high school whose behavioral problems fit the mold of Singh’s supposedly rewired brain now apparently “deviant” in some capacity, but all it took to get his ass in gear was the reactions his parents gave him after he showed them his report card. I think we’re vastly underestimating the role of parental and external pressure and its ease in dealing with cases of discipline. It’s certainly plausible to state the opposite however – that is, a kid grows up with his brain “rewired,” more apt to deal with screens and distraction, then that’s an entirely different issue. But my general reaction to the case presented in the article is simply skepticism. There is an inherent human tendency to ascribe different kind of problems that we can’t help then acknowledge our flaws and having to fix them. It’s rather cynical, but the problem of “rewiring” can just be substituted for comic books or whatever indulgence that’s supposed to corrupt the innocent. The problem exists, but this kid Singh doesn’t serve as the poster boy for it by any means.
Our discussions about discipline/the reading for today reminded me of the message in this comic : http://www.viruscomix.com/page519.html
Here’s a quick question for everyone about the “Google making us stupid” article: If we are not becoming “stupid” and that the way that our brains think is being rewired, then what will the future of testing look like? For instance, I read in my Kaplan GRE practice/study book that the exam is changing this summer, and that ETS anticipates drastic drops in the scores from previous years of testing. Granted, they argue/point out that whenever they DO change the exam, the scores decrease significantly. Back to the changing way that we think with the incorporation of the internet into our lives, though, in the future will there be more stratification of which things people read/comprehend/focus through, etc., that gives them a better advantage in say college applications? Like when the author says that there’s no way that he could read War and Peace anymore, are things like War and Peace, Paradise Lost, and other big frightening “classics” going to be simply replaced, or placed on a podium of superiority?
I admit to studying with the TV on, but I just saw a commercial about kids “spending an average of nine hours a day absorbing media…who are they really listening to?” The website that the commercial was for is http://www.commonsense.org
It’s a parent page that supposedly has ideas, help, and other nonsense to teach parents to get their kids off of their computers, ipods, etc. I thought it was interesting that the commercial emphasized a high school boy playing video games and tabbing out of it when his mom comes in to ask how his project is going instead of showing the bookworm who reads all the time without interacting with other people. This is another instance of media prejudice, I think.
Also found it interesting that the parents need a help website to get their children unaddicted (since they use addict) from their gadgets. I think they need that app Prof. Raley showed us that shuts down our internet for however long it’s programmed to shut it off!
I found this comic to be appropriate and funny. Enjoy.
The comic you posted complements my post about the future of literary reading.
I love the irony of the comic; the switch of current curiosity about digital texts with “future” curiosity about the book is brilliant. Just as people in the future could question our generation’s “stupidity” about digital media, we can imagine judging them for not knowing what a book is.
My question is, in a world where everything is digitized, will there be room for a nostalgia of the past? In particular, how will the physical book function in the future?
I think that books will become an object of curiosity. In the comic, the girl is curious about books, like our generation is curious about music records. There is no real use in records currently, except for nostalgic purposes. I hope that books do not become mere objects of nostalgia, but there is a threat that they will. They could end up having the same inconvenience as the record player.
Apparently there’s this new form of entertainment called “BOOK!”
This video was amusing and I thought it would be interesting to share because it’s in Spanish. This is an obvious statement, but it underscores the notion that topics like the traditional book vs. the e-book are global.
And one more, in case some of you haven’t seen it:
Medieval help desk
I got a real kick out of this video. One of my favorite aspects was the diction that was utilized throughout, such as, “Device, bio-optical, bits, optic scan, search”. All of these are normally applied toward computers and digital data. Hearing (or reading) these terms applied to books was pretty hysterical. It does however show how attracted our generation is to buzzwords. Even the “simple finger slide” mentioned (in reference to turning the page) seemed to be demonstrated in a way more appropriate (or originated) from Ipads/Iphones.
Here’s an Onion article I found on Reddit that hits depressingly close to home:
I found this while wasting time online. It really shows the potential for digital entertainment to create a sense of deep attention in the user…
I found some really fascinating “book sculptures”. They look a lot like what Calvino’s artist may have been up to in “Upon a Winters Night”, if the artist was really damn good.
honestly, just go have a look. They’re absolutely incredible.
agreed those are amazing
I saw the movie the Unknown a week or two ago, and although the movie wasn’t what I hoped, I do think it pertained to what we discussed earlier on in the quarter. In this movie Liam Neeson is completely stripped of his identity and is left with no physical proof of who he is. Without his wallet or passport, and even his own wife denying her relation to him, he stuck in a world where technically he doesn’t exist. I found this concept terrifying. In an age where practically anything can be altered or photoshopped anyone’s identity can be easily stolen.
Here’s the argument for wordless literature. Images have considerable power that words sometimes don’t:
At first I was worried it was a trick and I was going to get suckered into clicking “Go to next page” forever without any conclusion…but the story was so captivating I decided that either way I would continue to click to the next page for hours if I had to; fortunately it was only seven and I can go back to studying for finals, but I loved this and am really happy that you shared it.
Bao – thanks for sharing that comic, and I agree with you completely.
Continuing with the topic of wordless literature, does anyone else remember this book? http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/489972.The_Snowman I remember reading this as a kid and loving it.
I also really enjoyed this and definitely think that the wordless images made it a more beautiful and powerful piece of work. I loved the open end to it as well. Definitely think it was a happy and good ending. Thank you for sharing!
Here is that other Erik Loyer (“Strange Rain”) game, “Ruben and Lullaby”:
Here are two clips from the TV series, Modern Family, when the Dunphy’s compete over who can last the longest without using electronics.
This episode (called “unplugged”) touches on many topics that we have discussed in lecture (our heavy use of electronics, changing our practices, award based incentive, etc.)
Moments in the episode that I could not find clips of that I thought were relevant and funny include: the introduction when the family is sitting around the breakfast table, all using an electronic device and not communicating with one another, and when Alex attempts to write a science research paper and fails because the encyclopedia’s she is forced to use are out of date.
See the below poem about how T.V. corrupts. Seems familiar in the arguments today about computers…
I thought it was funny :)
(from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
“The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY…USED…TO…READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can’t–it serves him right.”
I wonder what a more updated version of that Oompa Loompa song would sound like. The Oompa Loompas (of the infinitely better 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) certainly had a penchant for holier-than-thou moralizing. I somehow get the feeling that, even though we’re reading now more than ever, the Oompa Loompas (read: folks like Nicholas Carr) would still disapprove. It reminds me a bit of the article “The Cult of the Book–and Why It Must End” by Jeffrey R. Di Leo. I can just imagine a modern-day Oompa Loompa creating whimsical rhymes about how the Internet “clutters” up the mind…
Also, these lyrics remind me of something I stumbled upon a week or so ago, as well as our discussion about people who disapprove of the Internet/iPads/cell phones/digital apparatuses in general, until it benefits them.
“Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–”
In this article (http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/a-parents-struggle-with-a-childs-ipad-addiction/), the writer discusses his 6 year-old’s iPad “addiction” (a diagnosis that I question). However, he takes a very moderate approach to his kid’s techno-obsession and even questions the idea that electronic devices are inherently “bad,” but he says something else that’s also quite interesting:
“sometimes it’s tough [to keep the iPad away from the child]. Because, let’s face it: When he’s on the iPad, he’s happy. He’s quiet. He’s engaged.”
I wouldn’t be a surprised if a many parents give their children access to electronic media to pacify them, or to just keep them occupied with something. However, for parents who lament their kid’s “addiction” to electronic media while letting their kid have total access to the Internet/cell phones/etc (like the parents of the student in that Frontline video), it seems like a double-standard.
Wow. Oops. I have no idea how I managed to add in all of those extra “a”s (and miss them completely), but that first sentence of the last paragraph should start as “I wouldn’t be surprised if many parents…” Also, the end of the second paragraph should read “until it benefits themselves.”
Even pop culture is realizing the overload that we’re experiencing on a daily basis. I found this column really interesting considering that it’s Mark Harris’ job to be connected in every way, and even he is beginning to see negative effects.
In response to Kimberly’s post regarding Modern Family.
I love this show. I really appreciate how accurate every story line is and how much of it applies to my life. This episode in particular made me reflect on how my parent’s relationship with technology has changed over the past couple of years. When I was in high school I was never allowed to have a phone anywhere near the dining room table or answer the home phone during dinner. However now when I go home my mom always has her droid with her and could care less if I am answering texts while talking to them. I think this is a good example of when technology expands to incorporate more groups of people, these people will be more receptive of change.
This is a pretty cool visualization tool.
I usually frequent the website gametrailers.com and watch their “Bonus Round” show quite a bit, which has interviews with various videogame journalists and developers and what not. So I was actually pretty amused when they were talking about the future of games, and one of the developers mentioned “continuous partial engagement.”
It how the gaming industry is also having to evolve, basically, in order to keep players engaged. The discussion about changing how they create games in order to suit new mediums is also parallels the discussions we’ve had about new forms of books on the iPad and etc.
I dig this show a lot, as it generally provides a lot of good insight into an artistic medium that’s typically viewed as immature or whatnot. But it’s interesting to note that a medium as young as video games already has to adapt to continuous partial attention, when, at its core, it thrives on it. In some games such as the RPGS epics like KOTOR or Dragon Age, you’re always micromanaging, engaging in the story, and doing a million and one things, but this is viewed as “deep” by most gaming purists. I feel these are a dying breed, and the fast-paced, bite sized shooter or puzzle is quickly becoming the norm, as well as the big moneyspinner. Nothing is sacred any more!
I felt compelled to pick the dubstep and remix thread back up. I think that it is an interesting facet of narratives, of appealing to our ever changing attention spans and practices. A way to re-purpose original content to give it new delivery, and thus, new meaning. If you’re thinking I’m nutty for proposing so, I suppose I understand, but consider at the very least its allegory to new literary practices and mediums, how authors are utilizing new technologies in order to tell stories (or as JP would say, just use your robot ears).
Imogen Heap, “Hide and Seek” the original track:
Roksonix, “Hide and Seek” dubstep remix:
Mt Eden, “Hide and Seek” dupstep remix:
Jason Derulo, “Whatcha Say” make $$ edit:
I’ve been seeing a lot of the new commercials for the Amazon Kindle lately. The campaign is “The Book Lives On”; curious, considering the fact that the Kindle is neither a “book” in the traditional sense, nor is it even colloquially referred to as one (it is, conspicuously, an “e-reader” or an “e-book”). The commercial can be watched here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIj5lpFQIK8
I find several things interesting about this commercial. For starters, the Kindle is portrayed as more of a social networking facilitator instead of, well, a device that contains literature. While a few of the readers in the commercial are solitary, many of them are in groups, supposedly bonding over their shared passion for Kindles. If we are to believe this commercial, hip, popular people own Kindles; the coolest of the bunch take their Kindles to social gatherings (0:20). These happy consumers are displayed jumping, running, laughing, and chatting to one another, all while clutching their Kindles. It’s a far cry from the image of the withdrawn bookworm, holed up in her bedroom reading “The Lord of the Rings” and foregoing social engagements. Evidently, the Kindle lets readers have their cake and eat it too; Kindle readers can have all of those “books” (I’ll get to that word choice in the next section) they’ve always wanted to own/read, and in the process can network with their literary-savvy buddies. It’s like an old-fashioned book club, except it’s suddenly the party everybody wants to go to.
At 0:04, text flashes across the screen that lets us know the Kindle can hold “over 800,000 books.” Once again, the word “book” is being conflated with “novel” or “literature.” We should give the people who work in Amazon’s marketing department credit; by referring to the chunks of data you can download onto your Kindle as “books,” the Kindle might become appealing to, say, people who like the aesthetics of the book.
I’m curious to know what you all think about this campaign. Are people really reading more literature because of the Kindle? Should we stretch our definition of a “book” to include e-readers? Am I asking too many questions during finals week? Possibly, but I wanted to throw this out into the ether anyway.
In answer to your first question, I don’t think people are reading that much more literature as a result of eReaders such as the kindle. While they do provide a certain type of convenience for avid readers, a man that has never read much before is not suddently going to become an avid reader because he has a Kindle. Something I personally found interesting in my own use of my Nook for instance is that while I initially was reading more avidly than usual because I was excited about my new toy, the novelty of it died off after about a month. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t use it from time to time, but it has in no way shape or form changed my prolonged reading habits. The people, at least in my experience working at Best Buy, is that the eReader caters to people who already read and don’t want to carry around their books while on travel because of added weight.
I don’t think we extend our definition of the book to include eReaders. They are an electronic device and while they may contain literature within them as a file, the same could be said for my computer, or my phone. The book I feel occupies a specific space that cannot be replicated by an electronic device no matter how cleverly it is marketed.
And you aren’t throwing out that many questions :-)
A newspaper article from the Santa Barbara News-Press (March 14, 2011 edition) brings up a great question about the future of e-books in libraries. Apparently, HarperCollins recently announced that each e-book libraries purchased from them will need to be re-bought once “checked-out” twenty-six times. Librarians argue that this is an unfair measure, especially since library budgets have been experiencing many cuts. They claim that e-books, like any other library books, are property of the library once purchased. Print books are not instantly reclaimed after being read a certain number of times, so why should e-books be? These rental quarrels about e-books are just another testament to the changing definition of what a book really is.
The title of the article is: “Publisher puts new limits on library e-books” and was found in the Business section
For those who are not tired of Henry James:
As I was browsing through Davidson Library, I found Henry James, “The Future of the Novel.” I have included a link to a portion of it (from the New York Times) but if anyone actually wants to read more Henry James, they should look it up on Google books for the whole text.
Although I did not agree with all of what James’ said, there were several arguments in this old essay (from the year 1900) that stuck out because some of them were brought up in class and are still relevant today:
“The fact that in England and in the United States every specimen that sees the light may look for a ‘review’ testifies merely to the point which, in these countries, literary criticism has sunk.”
“There is nothing to prevent our taking for granted all sorts of happy symptoms and splendid promises—so long, of course, I mean, as we keep before us the general truth that the future of fiction is intimately bound up with the future of society that produces and consumes it.”
“A community addicted to reflection and fond of ideas will try experiments with the “Story” … “
“How are the generations to face, at all, the monstrous multiplications?”
This last quote I found interesting because it seems as if Henry James was concerned with the over-growth of the book. It is almost as if he believes its being so widely accessible, “demoralizes” or “vulgarizes” literature because readers will not reflect and criticize it as they consume it.
James presents an optimistic vision of the future of the novel near the end of the essay, in which he states that until “the world is an unpeopled void,” there will be books. He also states that bad novels show not the ‘drop’ of literature itself, but the ‘drop’ of the novelist. I wonder how James’ opinion would differ if he were to see today’s novels/literature.
This was an article I found a while ago and kept forgetting to post. It makes a great point about integrating the classic “face-to-face” teaching environment with online teaching as well. At Hudson High they have the textbooks online which they say helps with “decluttering” the students environment and mind, as well as parents can go online at anytime and track their students progress so they are not left out in the dark. One of the 14 year old freshman explains that having the online curriculum helps reinforce what they are learning in the class room…so maybe the old and the new can create something great for the future of teaching!
The thing about “decluttering” reminded me. It’s something I’ve almost forgotten, even though it’s just been a couple years, but we had lockers in high school, didn’t we? We kept ridiculously heavy hardcover books in them, and before finals we, or at least I, always brought most of them home and usually had sore shoulders the next day. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But it does make sense, it’s possible that books may not be the best tool for teaching certain subjects. If you think about it, as far as sciences go, they’re just a means to store data and findings. Nowadays you don’t need to have a physical book to do that.
In response to some of James’ predictions that Erika brought up. I don’t think readers have gotten less critical. Take nerd culture and Star Wars for example. It may not be a book but movies are an even more accessible form of narrative, and people just go absolutely crazy over small details, like “Han shot first” and so forth. While its not exactly critical analysis it does require a similar focus and attention.
And about the whole quality of writers going down, I’d say its more to do with readers. Whether or not a writer is successful depends on if what they write resonates with readers. This could tie back in with the previous point that the more accessible the novels get, the less critical the readers get, which can be interpreted as an increase in the amount of casual readers that will read bad books. There’s still good books being published though, so I wouldn’t be too worried.
I saw this and thought it applied to our class. enjoy
Unplug, huh? I can’t say I agree with the opinion presented, but the video was quite poignant to the argument against much of modern technology (particularly popular, networking technology). I especially enjoyed this video for its base in Modernist style (Ginsberg and the Beats). Though, the Modernism exemplifies the out-dated nature of the the argument; the future provides idealists, not jaded and drugged-out Beat Poets (perhaps, both, I suppose). We’ve moved on from these arguments, as present and applicable as they remain.
The article Stephanie mentions also makes a great point about how “digital natives’” mental faculties towards electronics such as laptops and ipads have been focused primarily on entertainment, not on learning. Not that this is a revolutionary idea, but it made me think about how children interactions with technology is most likely be changing very soon, if it hasn’t already. Since many children are already learning from iphones and what not, whose to say that they may handle constant partial attention better than our current generation.
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